Spotlight on Indivisible Canton

by Catherine Walthers

The issues Indivisible Canton gravitated toward in its early days — getting big money out of politics and voter turnout — remain just as important and fundamental to this group now. And then, there are the many other calls to action that pop up along the way.

Ellen Fox, one of the group leaders, laughs and says whenever Indivisible National sends out a survey on priority issues, she wants to place a check next to each one. “It’s like ya, I care about all of them.”

The Sharon resident and activist says her philosophy dictates feeling good about whatever the group accomplishes. “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. As long you’re doing some progressive thing, by definition, you’re supporting Democrats over Republicans. Everyone in our core group is progressive, from very to rabidly.” Retired from Oxfam in 2016, where she was the manager of the team that processed donations, Fox has maintained her fairly hopeful outlook — “I’ve been called borderline perky” she says — until the recent election antics by Trump and the Republicans which has unfortunately dampened her optimism.

Canton resident Denise Falbo got involved with the group leadership early on, expanding her activities way beyond simply voting, which she always considered a sacred duty. “Trump made me realize that’s not enough. You really have to be more involved in your democracy if you want to keep it,” she says. “I think Indivisible helped me realize our little drops of water that we drip and add to the bucket are part of a real movement that can make a change. It’s been very meaningful to me.“

Canton Indivisible draws members primarily from Canton, a town of about 24,000 residents located at the nexus of Routes 93, 95 and 128 — about 15 minutes from downtown Boston, as well as from nearby Dedham, Westwood, Sharon and Stoughton. Fox and Falbo and their core group of 6 to 10 people have led this group into many election forays. In 2017 they were involved with helping candidates outside the state in NH as well as Antonio Delgado in NY, who defeated a Republican incumbent, and Jay Gonzalez in the race against Gov. Baker. The group was heavily involved in both the 2018 and 2020 elections on all fronts with postcards, phone banking and texting. The successes are bolstering, and the growing influence with elected leaders, including their Congressman Stephen Lynch, important. “I think people in the 8th district have moved him more to left; he’s much more progressive than he was five years ago,” says Fox. “It’s good for these incumbents to know there are people out there ready to challenge them,” adds Falbo.

On the local level, a number in the group got behind Lisa Lopez, who won a seat on the Canton Select Board last year, only the second woman in the town’s history, says Falbo.

The group has worked in partnership with the Environmental Voter Project and canvassed Canton to increase the numbers of voters, with more work still to be done. In the presidential election, “fairly conservative” Canton helped elect Biden with 9,213 votes to 4,959 for Trump. Falbo says one happy outcome of her local activism is increased involvement in her own community where she has “gotten to know more of my neighbors.”
For a small group, Canton Indivisible recognized early on the importance of connecting with like-minded progressive groups. This helps both Fox and Falbo who see their leadership team’s role as creating opportunities for people to be involved, including their own 150 followers on FB. “It’s our secret sauce,” says Fox. They worked on Swing Left Greater Boston campaigns and served as the guinea pigs for an emerging group called Force Multiplier hosting its very first remote meeting with them using Zoom — before the pandemic hit and before Zoom was a household word. Force Multiplier, of course, went on to become a successful educational and fundraising hub, raising $6.3 million in the 2020 elections and helping send 14 Democrats to Washington. Like others, Canton Indivisible joined the Ranked Choice Voting effort, and more recently, the Act on Mass campaign for increased State House transparency.

Another member on the Canton team is Liza Colburn, who also sits on the board of the Canton Residents for a Sustainable + Equitable Future, working on climate justice issues. Core member Trish Boyden is the current president of the Canton Democratic Town Committee, which links the group to local politics.

Both Falbo and Fox also give significant time to the Indivisible MA Coalition (IMC) as well. For 2½ years, Falbo, a retired tech writer and journalist, edited this statewide IMC newsletter. She handed-off that task to a team of people in December. Fox works in the IMC tech team, which is in charge of the website, the activist database and emailing facility.